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American Imago 57.4 (2000) 335-338

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Jack J. Spector

At Frankfurt University a Graduate Department founded in 1996 has defined its field in interdisciplinary terms as the "Psychic Energies of Art." The papers published in this and the next issue of American Imago originated in a symposium held under its auspices.

The Department has in common with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research (the "Frankfurt School") 1 both its location and its interest in psychoanalysis. The Department has attempted to reinvigorate literary criticism and art history in Germany by fostering a collaboration among psychologists, critics and historians of literature, and art historians. To this end it has nominated a number of interested Associates who have been invited to collaborate with members in an attempt to "reconstruct the historical conditions of the production and impact of art above all through psychological, sociopsychological and psychoanalytic models." It has primarily concentrated on German rather than French, English or American theory and art--with the exception of Italian Renaissance art (an interest it shares with Freud). The work of the Department thus offers us an insight into the current status of psychoanalytically oriented cultural investigation among those German-speaking scholars mainly interested in the Renaissance (hence their subjects and their emphasis on Kris, who did not treat art later than the eighteenth century). 2

The symposium was held in Vienna in 1997, concurrent with the major exhibition Kunst und Wahn that inspired its theme and title--"Irritation, Imagination, Identification." On that occasion the Associates presented papers in German, many of which sensitively explored the affective and intentional aspects of psychotic art. The selection from these papers translated for the present volume considers a variety of subjects in the light of psychology and art history: problems in Freud's Leonardo that remain unresolved despite a seemingly [End Page 335] interminable debate; problematic aspects in scholarship devoted both to established artists and to psychotics; Ernst Kris' oscillation between art history and psychoanalysis; controversial judgements of the psychiatrist Prinzhorn who assembled and published a major collection of psychotic art; and tensions within a painting by Klee that can be better understood through psychoanalytic interpretation. 3

The papers, divided into two sections, have been published in two separate issues. Earlier issues of American Imago devoted to art history ("New Directions in Art History," Spring, Fall 1996) centered on modern art; the current pair largely concerns material prior to the eighteenth century. This first one, "Psychoanalysis and Renaissance Art History: Fresh Views" contains the papers devoted explicitly to Renaissance art by Herding, Koos and Hammer-Tugendhat. Each paper aspires to arrive at a new methodological viewpoint by scrutinizing a narrowly defined problem. 4

The second one, "Metapsychological Considerations on Kris, Prinzhorn and Klee" contains a more varied group of essays: three--by Brand-Claussen, Pfarr and Roeske--deal with methodology, including analyses of the ideas of Freud, Kris, and Prinzhorn, and a fourth by Spector with an interpretation of themes and forms in the work of Klee.

Klaus Herding's paper on "Freud's Leonardo: A Discussion of Recent Psychoanalytic Theories" incisively criticizes the tendency recently to treat Freud's view of the great artist as a subjective reflection, a projection of himself. 5 The paper observes that by attending only to Freud's undeniable errors and personal involvement, his detractors fail to do justice to the historical and psychological import of his assertions, whose validity should be reevaluated in the light of recent research. Consequently, Herding reconsiders the apparently worn out issues of Mona Lisa's smile, the two-mother theme, and the tension between nature and artifice, and probes the emotional ground for the iconography. In his opinion Freud's book is still vital, since he finds that few scholars--no psychoanalysts and only Gombrich among the art historians--have advanced beyond Freud's original insights into Leonardo's personality.

Marianne Koos's paper "Imagination, Identity, and the Poetics of Desire in Giorgione's Painting" shows the difficulty [End Page 336] of recognizing Giorgione's subjects; indeed, even the iconography of his portraits has been divergently interpreted as Classical or Christian. Some deny that his paintings...


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